Waiting for answers to prayer

Why would God wait to answer our prayers?  Wouldn’t we expect that since God is all-powerful that He would answer immediately?  What is the purpose for God’s delaying our prayer requests?

Outside of God’s Will

One reason that God may not answer our prayers or that He waits is that we are asking for the wrong thing.  We may be asking for something that is not in God’s will for our lives and we might be asking for selfish reasons.  James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”(James 4:3).  For example, if we ask for money and we are not already giving to our local church or we have not been helping the poor, why should God give us more money so that we might spend it on ourselves?  Also, we might have the wrong motives in asking for something.  If we ask for a better job, the job that we think would be better may actually be worse than the job we have now.  God is sovereign and He knows what is best, and holds our best interests in mind for our future (Jer. 29:11).

In the  Lord’s Prayer, we are to ask that His will be done on earth just as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10).   We know that God’s will for believers is to grow in grace and knowledge, so we can ask for spiritual understanding of His Word just before we read the Bible.  There is confidence in praying when we know His will for out lives as it says in I John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

We must remember to pray with faith.

Doubt

When we pray, we may have serious doubts about God’s ability or willingness to answer our prayer.  James 12:6-7 indicates that if we pray in doubt, God will not honor our requests saying, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”  God may be waiting for us to pray in real faith, in expectation of receiving an answer, or to see if we are serious enough to continue to pray for it.

Sin Stops Prayer From Being Answered

God will not answer the prayer of a believer if they are in a state of perpetual, unrepentant sin (I Pet. 3:12). Psalm 66:18 is clear that “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.“ If we are obedient, He will hear our prayers (John 15:7) but if we are unforgiving, He will refuse our petitions before His altar (Matt. 18:35).  Matthew 5:24 is says that when we fail to forgive others, this is cause for a failed request for His help, “leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Prayer is Answered in God’s Timing

God also expects us to wait patiently on His perfect timing (Psalm 66:18).  In Hebrews 10:36, “For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.” The minor prophet, Habakkuk speaks for all of us when he grew impatient in waiting for God to answer his request in 1:2, “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”  I can most certainly identify with Habakkuk in his sentiments.  Psalm 37 is a great Psalm to read when you are seeking the desires of your heart with the realization that it may take some time. Read these key verses from Psalm 37 on waiting:

7  “Rest before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not worry when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.“

25  “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”

34  “Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”

Sometimes the desires of our heart take time.  They do not happen overnight.  God is most often at work when He appears to be the most silent.  Even though Daniel had to wait three weeks before his prayer was answered, God had actually answered his prayer that very day that he prayed.  Don’t think that since God does not immediately reveal to you His answer, that He has not answered it  and has not answered it right away.  Daniel had his prayer answered the very same day of his request but it took three weeks for God’s sovereign timing for it to reach him – and it did at exactly the right time, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them”(10:12).

Stories of Waiting For Prayer To Be Answered

Don’t ever give up on praying.  God shows us that persistence pays off in Luke 18:1-8, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  The point of this parable is that if we continue steadfastly in prayer God will honor that persistence.  Never give up on praying because God may be waiting to see if it is important enough to us to continue in prayer, day and night, day after day.

I heard the story of a faithful mother who had been praying for 28 years for her son to come to faith in Christ.  Year after year her son was rebellious.  He abused drugs, was in and out of jail, and showed no signs of ever knowing Christ.  The days and years dragged on with absolutely no indication that there was anything different in the man‘s life.  Then one day, 28 years after his mother first prayed for him, this man came to a saving faith in Christ.  Today this man, Terry Williams, uses his testimony to help other prison inmates find their way to a relationship with the only One Who can save: Jesus Christ.  What if this mother had given up?  What if she decided it was not important enough to keep praying each and every day?  What a difference this mother made in her steadfast prayers due to her undying love for her son.   Today her son is making an eternal difference for others in prison.  This was all due to prayer.  Even though she had to wait

Another article you might be interested in:

Does God Answer The Prayers of Unbelievers?

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If you’re anything like me, your prayers often reflect impatience, even petulance. “Hurry up, God!” “What’s taking so long?” But the person who prays must learn to wait on God. So what does that mean? How do we do that? Waiting on God is not a passive posture. It involves action. It requires effort, much of which is counter-intuitive, particularly to 21st century people. 

Here are 6 ways to actively wait to hear from God:

1.  Don’t stop praying.

David, the great shepherd-king of Israel, earned a Ph.D. in waiting on God. He wrote and sang of it often:

I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1, NASB).

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14, NASB).

Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed (Psalm 25:3, NASB). 

Who better, then, to show us how to wait on God than David and his Psalm 130? Psalm 130 is a prayer from beginning to end. David pours out his heart to God:

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications (Psalm 130:1-2, NASB).

Waiting on God is not a cessation of prayer, a pause but intensification. If we are waiting on God we are, if anything, more active in prayer than we were before. 

2.  Examine yourself.

As he waits, David’s thoughts turn inward, reflecting on the status of his heart and life and reminding himself of God’s fondness for forgiveness:

If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared (Psalm 130:3-4, NASB).

While we wait on God, we also search our own hearts to confess any sin that may hinder an answer or make any surrender that will further align us with God’s plans and purpose. 

3.  Focus and refocus your heart, soul and mind.

David doesn’t spend his time twiddling his thumbs or pacing the floor; he focuses his thoughts and aligns himself with God’s word:

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope (Psalm 130:5, NASB).

Waiting on God often involves reading and repeating God’s word and focusing our thoughts on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…. about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).

4.  Keep your eyes and heart open and alert.

Waiting on God requires a heightened attentiveness and watchfulness in which you scan your surroundings, circumstances, conversations and “coincidences” for clues and indications of God’s answer on the horizon:

My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning (Psalm 130:6, NASB).

A watchman on the walls of a city was constantly searching the horizon and scanning the landscape for movement. The soul who waits on God will be similarly alert for hints and harbingers of God at work.

5.  Keep trusting, reminding and hoping.

Even as he waits, David reminds himself and those around him of who God is, what God has done and why they should continue to hope in Him:

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption (Psalm 130:7, NASB).

6.  Keep going.

Too often when we are waiting on God—or think we are—we tense and freeze and stop progressing. But God is just as able to close doors and pathways as He is to open them. So rather than choosing inaction, we who wait on God can keep moving ahead, trusting as David did that God will guide our steps as we go:

And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities (Psalm 130:8, NASB).

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by Kembert (Barbados)

Almighty God we come at this time in Thanksgiving, Praise and Preayer . We thank you Lord for your past Blessings we praise and magnify your name and all of your heavenly host. As we come to you again dear Lord God you know our needs and we look to you to help us meet our working and financial commitments, Dear Lord you know the many people who are looking to me for help, please Lord help me not to dissipoint them much longer but please come to my assistance so that they can be happy.

Please Bless me with this request dear Lord God in the name of your son Jesus Christ I pray asking your forgiveness where and when I have gone wrong.

Father Jesus please help those who cry out to you for help you know dear Lord that you are the only one who can help please dear Lord God hear, help and Bless them and us as we call in the name of Jesus Christ and all of your Heavenly host. Dear Lord please come to us quickly as we wait upon your help .

Return to Roman Catholic Prayers

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waiting for answers to prayer

“Hey Colton, I bet you asked if you could have a sword, didn’t you?” I said.

At that, Colton’s scowl melted into a dejected frown, and his shoulders slumped toward the floor. “Yeah, I did. But Jesus wouldn’t let me have one. He said I’d be too dangerous.” ~ Heaven Is for Real

Heaven is for real, and that means when a toddler visiting Heaven asks Jesus for a real sword, Jesus says no. When Colton told me this, I had to wonder if Jesus knew a sword-wielding toddler would be too dangerous to himself – or to others.

This negative response in Heaven came after Colton had gotten another no answer when he asked the angels to sing “We Will, We Will Rock You” as they escorted him to Jesus. And then there was the issue of his sister hugging him – when being hugged by a girl wasn’t this little guy’s favorite thing.

We may think of Heaven as a place where we get everything we want, where we always get our way. But that wouldn’t be real. Heaven is a good and perfect place, but sometimes what we think we want, at least here on earth, doesn’t meet heaven’s good-and-perfect criteria.

Sometimes Jesus says no.

When I’m honest with myself and really look at what’s happening, I realize that most of the time when I get a no answer to my prayers, I’m praying for easy. On those days when I ask God to make my life easy, I tend to hear lots of nos as the challenges roll in.

No is not my favorite answer, for sure. But I’ve lived long enough now and have had enough glimpses of God’s bigger plan for my life that I can see God at work in many of those negative answers. I have to agree with the message in Garth Brooks’ song “One of God’s Greatest Gifts Is Unanswered Prayers.”

Sometimes God says no, sometimes He says yes, and I can handle both of those answers. But let me tell you what’s harder for me than no. It’s when God says, “Wait.” It’s the “not yet” answers that are hardest for me. The wait answers. The answers that seem like no answer at all for a long time.

I am, by nature, a let’s-get-things-done kind of guy. Let’s go. Let’s do it. Let’s make it happen. For me, waiting is difficult.

So I tend to ask God, “If You want this, and surely You do, why not now? Why can’t you make it happen today?”

Then God whispers something like this to me: You’re a parent. You know how this works.

If my three-year-old son were to have asked me for a sharp sword, there’s no way I would have given it to him. I would know he couldn’t handle it yet.

Right now I’m struggling with another stage of life as a parent. I have a teenager who will soon turn sixteen. Almost every parent knows what that means: “Dad, can I have the keys?”

Fortunately there are some laws in our society I really appreciate during this stage. One of them is that before someone sits behind the wheel of a moving vehicle he or she has to pass a test that hopefully demonstrates that person can operate the vehicle carefully, safely, and courteously – and come back home to Mom and Dad in one piece. Until teenagers are ready, that law helps us parents say, “You have to wait.”

To teenagers eager to drive and have the freedom to go where they please, that wait can seem like an eternity. But for their sake especially, and for other people’s sakes too, a parent can’t let kids drive until they’re ready. So they have to wait. And grow. And learn. And eventually they get their driver’s license.

Then, after sixteen, life continues, and they keep growing and maturing. For me, there was a growing period before I was ready to become a husband. I needed to wait and add some more knowledge and maturity to my lifetime collection. Then, after marriage, there was another growing period before I was ready to become a father. Those gifts I now enjoy, my marriage and my children, God gave to me. But I had to wait until he knew I was ready for them.

In the book of Genesis, we watch a young man named Joseph grow and gain maturity. Joseph had an incredible gift of seeing and interpreting dreams. But like most teenagers, when he first discovered the gift, he wasn’t mature enough to handle it. His arrogance caused him to boast to his brothers and even to his parents that he’d had a dream that said one day they would bow down to him.

Well, that arrogance led to a lot of awful events in Joseph’s life: Betrayal. Slavery. A dungeon. Then, after a long wait, the second-highest position in Egypt.

Finally, seventeen years after that first dream he’d boasted about, it came true: Joseph’s brothers bowed before him asking for food.

If an immature person had been in that place, he could have gloated over his brothers’ forced humility. He could have mocked them, punished them. Instead, this is what Joseph said about his brothers selling him into slavery:

You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. – Genesis 50:20

It’s almost like he was saying, “I needed to grow up, and God used the difficulties you caused me to suffer to make that happen. Those difficulties brought me to this point where I am mature enough to handle the dream God gave me.”

Now, I’m not saying immaturity is the only reason God gives us not-yet answers to our prayers. But in my life, it’s been a big reason why I’ve had to wait. I see that now, after the growing has been done, the waiting is over, and the prayer has been answered.

Could there be some answer to your prayer where the obstacle to yes is a growth issue? Here are two truths to remember if a growth issue is causing you to have to wait:

First, God will know when you’re ready – before you know. And second, if you ask Him to grow you so you can be ready, He’s pretty good at that too.

What can God say yes to tomorrow if you grow today?

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. – Psalm 40:1

Excerpted from with permission from Heaven Changes Everything by Todd & Sonja Burpo, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2012.

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Your Turn

Are you frustrated waiting for answers to prayer? Isn’t that the most difficult answer?! Have you considered that God is stretching and growing you as you wait on Him and His perfect answers to prayer? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

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